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Using Mobile Phones in Bangkok, Thailand

Updated on December 11, 2011

Mobile Phones - The Most Indispensable Tool You'll Ever Need in Thailand

If you are planning a trip to Bangkok or anywhere else in the Kingdom of Thailand, make sure you pack a mobile phone in your bag. Specifically an unlocked GSM capable phone or world phone as others would call it.

A mobile phone is a necessary tool in a country such as Thailand where a large portion of the population only speaks Thai.

One good example for keeping a phone handy with you while exploring Bangkok is if you're staying in a relatively unknown hotel in the old district such as the Bangkok Miramar Hotel. And the only way to get back to your hotel is with a taxi.

Only problem is the driver doesn't know where the hotel is even if you have a map. This is where a mobile phone comes in to save the day. You can dial the hotel and have someone speak directly to the driver.

It is particularly useful for group travelers who want to split up and eventually rejoin later on. And you can always call Bangkok's tourist police by dialing 1155 for information. They can also assist you in disputes with shops in tourist areas such as Patpong nightlife district. However, not all tourist police are adept at their jobs.

Of course you can use your mobile phone with a Thai sim card to call international and double check Uncle Ned's t-shirt size for his souvenir (the instruction booklet that comes with the sim card packet includes instructions on how to dial international calls).

GSM phones require a small sim card chip inserted into the mobile phone in order to work. The kicker is you have to make sure that your mobile phone is unlocked. An unlocked GSM phone will work with any sim card from mobile service providers around the world.

For example If you have purchased an AT&T branded phone from the United States it will be locked to an AT&T sim chip only. So the phone will only work with AT&T's service. However, you can request to have your phone unlocked by calling AT&T and explaining that you are visiting Thailand and would like to use a local sim card over there.

There are many manufacturers of GSM capable phones such as Nokia, Motorola and Samsung. Any Apple iPhone will work too as long as it is not the latest 4S model which requires a smaller sim card. And currently the Apple 4S is not available in Thailand.

Once you have your phone you will need a Thai mobile service provider's sim card in order for you to make calls in Thailand. I recommend a company called DTAC.

DTAC is a very reliable company and you can find their sim cards in 7 Eleven convenience stores because they are everywhere in Thailand. DTAC's sim card comes in a packet with instructions. And the phone numbers are listed on the upper right corner of the packet. It only cost 49 Baht and includes a small credit.

However, once you've arrived in Suvarnbhumi Airport check the arrival hall for a DTAC kiosk. They might be able to offer you a free DTAC sim card.

GSM sim card from DTAC. The 10 digits on the upper left corner is the mobile number programmed to the sim card.
GSM sim card from DTAC. The 10 digits on the upper left corner is the mobile number programmed to the sim card. | Source

Unlocked GSM Phones Are Not Expensive

As you long as you're not gunning for the latest Apple iPhone you can buy a good decent unlocked GSM phone everywhere these days at a very affordable price. Personally I prefer smart phones these days so that I can check my email and surf the internet for information whenever I'm stuck in traffic inside a taxi.

You can also find unlocked GSM phones in one of the most popular malls in Bangkok called MBK right in Bangkok's busiest shopping center.

Refilling the minutes, or topping up the credits on your mobile phone through DTAC is easy too. Again, head over to one of the many 7 Elevens in Bangkok and you can find refill cards with 60 Baht to 500 Baht increments. Once you follow the easy instructions on back of the refill card you will receive an SMS message regarding your new balance.

There are several DTAC centers too located in major malls where you can refill your credits through friendly customer service reps.


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    • Webscapeseo profile image

      Webscapeseo 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Really interesting Hub, i really enjoyed reading it.

    • Edwin Clark profile image

      Edwin Clark 6 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Hello Steve, I noticed in Asia the phones are usually unlocked. And I believe the software to unlock phones are much more widespread in Asia as it is back in the States so it's easier for people to just do it for themselves.

    • Steve LePoidevin profile image

      Steve LePoidevin 6 years ago from Thailand

      Lots of good info. We had no problem using a Thai sim card in our unlocked Nokia phone when we were last there. I think all the phones here in China are unlocked.